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Despite calling this a story of 22nd Century America, Wilson's Julian Comstock could almost as easily be a story of 19th century Britain, in terms of his style and language.  That's not criticism but praise - clearly, given the picture he's building (of a post-oil crash world reversing back into a neo-Victorian sensibility) and the first-person perspective of a person living in these times the Victoriana is absolutely perfect, and the fact he hits it so well is a definite strength.  It's also very readable - he's not dived so far in that it's dense with problematic prose, but it retains some of our modern sensibilities.  It's also interesting in terms of the narrator's point of view - he retains his rustic, half-pious sensibilities throughout, and it shows in the descriptions and depictions of characters and places that are given, in that they impress and overwhelm the narrator and reader both... and in some places, subtle hints replace what in other (or third-person) narratives is explicit, rendered stunningly well.

That leads me on to characters.  They're all rich - all seen through Adam Hazzard's eyes, yes, because he is our narrator, but all the same we do see multi-faceted, well-rounded, and well-written characters with thoughts and minds of their own; that we do not get inner monologues doesn't take from our understanding of the characters (and renders Adam very empathetic), and the fact that we don't necessarily get complete pictures actually adds to, rather than taking from, them (this also relates back to the subtle hints...).  That we get a novel not entirely focused on any one character - Julian and Adam both play central roles in the story and its progression - is also interesting, since it gives us more than one perspective on what's important.

The setting plays a role as important as any character in this novel, and it's a setting excellently painted and explored.  Theocratic, militaristic, Presidential, aristocratic/feudal - this is Palinite/Paulite America taken a little further than, at least, their public statements allow, with added logic given the changes brought about by the False Tribulation (the end of oil, climate change, and more, from the rough sketches in the book - a lot of knowledge is assumed, knowledge which doesn't exist, adding verisimilitude to the novel in an innovative manner).  It's brilliantly drawn, and populated by humans, with people as a part of the system and fighting it; no one is painted as right or wrong in absolute terms, and it's a wonderful piece of work.

The plot... is really somewhat secondary.  Well-written and with some nice twists, albeit a couple of dei ex machinae, it keeps the book moving, serving more as something to hook the characters and world on to and to help us understand them than anything else, it's still a good one - roaring along in that sort of Ripping Yarns way.  Fun, with serious elements, it's perhaps neither the least predictable nor most original plot out there, but it serves its purpose well.

All in all, a strongly recommended book, which I massively enjoyed.  A really fun and thought-provoking read.


reading, books
Daniel Franklin


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